Although athletes are the long-standing target consumers of sports drinks, more companies are broadening their options within the past year to meet the demands of “everyday athletes” who are now the driving force behind the category. In addition, a demand for healthy beverages exists across all categories, and many sports drinks are reducing calories to keep with growing trends.
“The big thing for 2009 is the low-calorie stuff,” says Brian Morgan, senior research analyst at Euromonitor International Inc., Chicago. “What is different is that people are cutting back and looking for health in a way, across all beverages, that they didn’t before. [Companies] need to offer the low-calorie solution or these alternative sweeteners now, or it needs to be something so intrinsic, so iconic, that it will always have a following.”
In September 2007, PepsiCo-owned Gatorade introduced G2, a low-calorie option. The line launched in Grape, Orange and Fruit Punch flavors. This year, Blueberry-Pomegranate, Strawberry-Kiwi and Lemon-Lime flavors will be added to the line.
According to Information Resources Inc., Chicago, G2 earned $168.8 million, an increase of 634 percent in supermarkets, drug stores and mass merchandise outlets (excluding Wal-Mart) during the 52 weeks ending Feb. 22, 2009.
“G2 was successful and kind of expanded to people on a diet looking for low-calorie drinks,” Morgan says. “A lot of prospects for the sports drink category are tied to the Gatorade brand.”
In addition to the success of G2, Gatorade also introduced Gatorade Tiger, a sports drink containing 25 percent more electrolytes than Gatorade Thirst Quencher, the company says. Gatorade Tiger is endorsed by pro golfer Tiger Woods, and the product marked Wood’s first U.S. deal with a beverage company and his first licensing agreement. The product was rebranded Gatorade Tiger Focus late last year and the company introduced True Force, the newest flavor, this year. With the rebranding, Gatorade Tiger Focus also received a product reformulation to include theanine.
Gatorade Tiger landed in IRI’s No. 7 spot, earning $65.8 million in its first year on the market.
In addition to the G2 and Gatorade Tiger launches, Gatorade redesigned its bottle labels and marketing design program in January to appeal to a broader range of athletes and active people, the company says.
“Just like any good athlete, Gatorade is taking it to the next level,” said Sarah Robb O’Hagan, chief marketing officer for Gatorade, in a statement. “Whether you’re in it for the win, for the thrill or for better health, if your body is moving, Gatorade sees you as an athlete, and we’re inviting you into the brand.”
As part of the packaging redesign, Gatorade Thirst Quencher distinctly displays the letter G along with the brand’s iconic bolt on the front label. In addition, each beverage now conveys the attitude “of a tough-love coach or personal trainer, through in-your-face names on the label,” the company says. Gatorade Fierce is now Bring It, Gatorade X-Factor changed to Be Tough, Gatorade AM, developed for morning exercisers, is called Shine On and Gatorade Rain is No Excuses.
The updated beverages are available in 32- and 20-ounce bottles, 20-ounce eight-packs and 12-ounce six-packs. Gatorade Tiger Focus also is packaged in 16.9-ounce eight-packs and single bottles.
“I think the big move [for Gatorade] was the rebranding, but it’s too early to tell if it has come off well,” Morgan says. “I think it does work for Gatorade. It’s pretty noticeable on the shelf. The G is a recognizable brand … instead of six or seven different kinds of Gatorade, I think it was a much better message for the consumer. When people think sports drinks, they think Gatorade. It’s basically synonymous.”
Overall, the shelf-stable non-aseptic sports drink category declined 1.8 percent in dollar sales during the past 52 weeks ending Feb. 22, 2009, IRI reports, but Gatorade and Powerade remain the No. 1 and No. 2 spots, respectively. Gatorade holds every spot in the top 10 except Powerade’s No. 2 spot.
Keeping with the better-for-you trend, Powerade, a Coca-Cola Co. brand, in April introduced Powerade with ION4 – “The Complete Sports Drink.” The product contains 100 mg. of sodium, 24.2 mg. of potassium, 2.5 mg. of calcium and 1.2 mg. of magnesium.
Bottled sports drinks were not the only sports drink category making news last year. Sports drink mixes fared well on the IRI charts as well. Gatorade’s Propel Powder Packets topped the list, with $32.6 million in total sales, an increase of 29.8 percent. The Propel packets made up a little more than 46 percent of the sports drink mix market.
Functional waters
The defining lines of what makes a sports drink are not as clear as they used to be. Enhanced waters are emerging with similar ingredients and functional qualities, which allows for more choices in the category.
“For the past five years, this category has been clouded,” says Garima Goel-lal, senior beverage analyst at Mintel International, Chicago. “There has been some blurring going on as consumers go to beverages like enhanced waters as an exchangeable option.”
Following its Gatorade makeover, PepsiCo launched its Propel low-calorie enhanced water in a new package. Propel added a Blueberry Pomegranate variety to the Grape, Kiwi-Strawberry, Berry and Lemon flavors. The new 500-ml. bottles use 33 percent less plastic and 30 percent less label material than the previous bottles.
In addition, the brand also launched two new sub lines with added nutrients: Propel Body and Propel Mind. Propel Body is available in Peach Mango and contains 10 percent of the daily value of fiber, the company says. Propel Mind comes in Black Cherry, and contains vitamin E plus choline, a nutrient for the brain, the company says.
Propel also created “life. propelled.,” a marketing campaign that includes television and print advertising, digital communications, retail displays and grassroots marketing initiatives.
PepsiCo’s Sobe Lifewater also was reformulated to include a zero-calorie sweetener PureVia, an extract from the stevia leaf, from Pure Circle. The zero-calorie Sobe Lifewater flavors include Fuji Apple Pear, Black and Blue Berry, and Yumberry Pomegranate. Black and Blue Berry contains berry and grape seed extract as well as antioxidant vitamins C and E.
On the stevia track, The Coca-Cola Co. released Vitaminwater10, a low-calorie beverage with 10 calories per serving. The product is available in XXX (Acai-Blueberry-Pomegranate), Essential (Orange-Orange), Energy (Tropical Citrus) and Multi-V (Lemonade) flavors. Vitaminwater10 Essential is sweetened with rebiana, a stevia extract. Vitaminwater10 is the first low-calorie Vitaminwater extension.
Dr Pepper Snapple Group Inc. and All Sport Inc. in April launched All Sport Naturally Zero, a sports drink sweetened with Reb-A, a natural sweetener derived from the stevia plant. A 20-ounce bottle comes in Dragonfruit, Strawberry Star Fruit and Mandarin Orange varieties. Dr Pepper’s Chief Executive Officer Larry Young says consumers are looking for low-calorie options, and a large amount of potential exists in the beverage industry for rebiana.
“The big splash that was announced was All Sport Naturally Zero, the zero-calorie one sweetened with stevia,” Euromonitor’s Morgan says. “This is a whole other trend which has been occurring since stevia got approved in December.”
“The acceptance of stevia basically depends on consumer awareness of the products,” Mintel’s Goel-lal adds. “We might see more products that have a natural low-calorie sweetener, which might somewhat mitigate and reduce high fructose corn syrup and the high-calorie standards of sports drinks.”
Also creating a natural product alternative, Clif Bar & Co., Berkeley, Calif., known for its natural and organic energy bars, introduced its first sports drink Clif Quench. The 88 percent organic sports drink contains electrolytes (sodium, potassium and magnesium), and a sucrose-glucose blend of carbohydrates to help with water and electrolyte absorption, the company says.
Clif Quench is available in Fruit Punch, Orange, Lime-Ade and Strawberry Citrus flavors. Clif Quench is packaged in 16-ounce bottles and each bottle is made from 40 percent post-consumer recycled PET plastic. It also uses an adhesive-free PETG label, which allows the label to be completely recycled along with the bottle. BI